Get out the vote (GOTV) management starts at the very beginning of your campaign before you even announce your candidacy. Every decision you make at that stage should be designed to get the most votes on election day. In this article, we will cover some of the strategic elements that need to be considered in the week running up to election day, on polling day itself, and on the day after.
Team assembly and organization
Map out who from your existing team of staff and volunteers, (along with any other strong supporters that might be convinced), are available to help out on e-day. Try to assemble everyone in one place for a briefing, assignment of tasks, and timetable of actions in the week running up to the big day. Try to use team members who are local to a particular polling station to manage that area. Local knowledge is critically important and it will reduce the ‘ask’ on volunteers if they don’t have to go too far.
Email blasts and direct mail
Voters will need to be sent targeted emails recapping the campaign message and urging them to come out and vote. Direct mail shots can be delivered by hand or through a third party agent. Your GOTV operation begins this week and voters should be strongly motivated through your email and direct mail messaging.
Most campaign teams will be in high-gear the last few days before polling day and targeted canvassing in ‘swing’ areas or to individual households will be of critical importance. It will depend on your campaign strategy and the quality of the voter outreach you have done during the campaign, to see how targeted this canvassing can be. Ideally, you will be able to push undecided voters into your camp with a last-minute persuasion canvass. Remember, the messages delivered now will have the greatest impact on voters.
PR & media
The candidate and high-profile supporters should be put in front of as much media as possible and leverage any PR opportunities in this week. Oftentimes, there will be a media blackout in the day or two before polling day so this is likely to be the last chance to get in front of voters. Transmitting energy and a positive attitude to the election will play well in media events.
Along with email and canvassing, phone banking and texting voters can be a great way to get to targeted segments of voters that you have identified for follow-up. Text messages have shown very high open rates in recent elections and getting the candidate themselves to pick up the phone to voters will bring in more crucial votes.
At this stage, the specifics of e-day will need to be gone over again. The team should be finalized and tasks assigned. Logistics, including transport, petty cash, campaign materials will all need to be addressed at this point. Ideally, an hour-by-hour timetable to polls closing should be elaborated and disseminated to the campaign management team.
A final review of your voter data, broken down by turfs, issue segments, and supporter level should take place to identify any obvious areas of focus. A stronghold area might have flagged in support recently and require additional resources to GOTV. A single issue might have come to dominate the election agenda in the final days, is there a response to this issue? The best case scenario is that your campaign team are confident that they know exactly how the election will unfold polling station by polling station. They won’t be right of course but it is a better situation than them not knowing!
Don’t forget breakfast. Offer a team breakfast to anyone who wants to have a final briefing and prepare for the day.
Getting to the polls
If you have done your work correctly all the team members will be able to get to the polls early or at their assigned times. If you need to mobilize your transport options to help them with this then do. Everyone should know what their tasks are at the polling station from handing out messages to arriving voters, to poll striking, to GOTV.
Teams should be divided into polling station teams and GOTV teams. The polling station teams should be able to assess who has come out to vote already and who still needs to be assisted in this. The GOTV teams should have this information communicated to them by the polling station teams and they will then kick into action. Having up-to-the-minute lists of voters to target will allow the GOTV teams to knock on doors, pick up the phone and arrange transport for voters. Marking the voters off and moving on to the updated list requires excellent management and, ideally, a central communication tool or software.
Provision of transport
Whether it is buses, minivans, cars or just a helping hand, transport provision for those voters who need it is essential to any GOTV operation. Have them organized in advance and available throughout the day where possible.
Target by area/target by household
Depending on the quality of your voter data and voter analytics, your GOTV operation may target voters by area or by household. A really good quality campaign will know, down to the household, who to target for GOTV. A less organized campaign may simply know stronghold areas, swing areas, and weak areas. In this case, they will want to avoid doing GOTV operations in weak areas and be careful about GOTV in swing areas. The danger is that you will end up turning out your competitor’s voters by mistake.
Email, text, phone-calls, and canvassing are good ways to GOTV if resources allow.
Take care of team
It’s been a long day and a long campaign. Your team should, at the very least, be thanked for their efforts at this stage and it is good practice to provide a ‘wrap’ event or call to everyone to thank them personally.
The day after election day is a busy day in which results begin to be tallied and you and your team will be eager to see how all your efforts played out. Team members being used to tally and result check as the count is being done is important work and will give the candidate the early signs of how things are going and prepare a response to success or failure.
The common understanding is that if you don’t get your posters, lawn-signs and other campaign advertising down within the first 24 hours you will likely be left doing it yourself for the next month! Get your team out on this task quickly.
Thank you emails
Regardless of the result, voters and team members should receive a thank you for their support or consideration. This will stand to you in the long run.
Breakdown and debrief with team
Always have a full team meeting to debrief and assess what went well and went badly. Capture contact details of all team members for future races.
Party/drowning of sorrows
Besides being a good excuse to have a party, it is also a great way to get more informal feedback about the campaign in general and get ideas for the future.